If you care for a friend or relative, you’re entitled to a free carer’s assessment from your local council, no matter how much care you provide. This will look at what support you need and whether you’re eligible for help from the council, which may include:
- 'replacement care' for the person you care for so you can have breaks, do a training course or continue working, for example
- practical help, such as help with housework
- support to improve your health and well-being, such as a gym membership
- training to help you feel more confident in your caring role, for example moving and handling training
- emotional support.
Even if you’re not eligible for help from the council, they must still give you advice and information about other local services, such as a carers group.
You may also be entitled to Carer’s Allowance.
It’s important that you look after your own emotional wellbeing and mental health. If you’re feeling low, anxious or stressed, consider talking to a friend, family member or your GP. Or call our Helpline.
Talking to someone who is in a similar situation can help. Carers UK provides advice and support for carers, including online and local support groups. The Alzheimer’s Society forum Talking Point offers online support.
There are some practical things you can do to help the person you're caring for.
People living with dementia can get confused or find it difficult to find the right words. It may help if you:
- speak clearly and slowly rather than raising your voice
- make sure that any hearing aids are working properly
- use short sentences
- rephrase rather than repeat something if they don’t understand, or try writing down what you have to say instead
- avoid asking too many questions at once
- offer simple choices that allow a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.
The Alzheimer’s Society has a useful factsheet about communicating.
Dementia usually affects short-term memory loss most severely. Talking about older memories can help conversation and be comforting for you and the person with dementia. To stimulate memories you could:
- look at old photographs and postcards
- listen to music
- visit places
Be aware that in some circumstances recalling some memories can cause distress.
The person you’re caring for may need reminders or help with personal care but, if possible, you should encourage them to do as much as possible for themselves. You could help them dress by:
- laying out clothes in the order they’ll put them on
- getting slip-on shoes or easy-fastening clothes (such as Velcro instead of buttons)
- helping them choose what they want to wear by offering one choice at a time.
If they need help with washing or going to the toilet, they and you might prefer to have a home care worker. Speak to your local council to request a care needs assessment.
Some people living with dementia lose their appetite or find it difficult to use cutlery or swallow food. They may also get distracted or restless during meal times. You could:
- try stronger and sweet flavours if their tastes have changed
- buy specially designed cutlery to make eating easier
- have meals at the same time every day
- minimise distractions, such as visitors or TV during meal times.
The Disabled Living Foundation has a website called Living Made Easy with advice on different types of aids.
If they have difficulty swallowing, ask their GP for a referral to a swallowing problems specialist. This could be a speech and language therapist, a dietician or a surgeon.
Incontinence can be a problem for someone living with dementia but it’s important to check that it isn’t caused by some other medical condition that could be treated. Their GP can refer them to a local continence adviser or service who can assess them and suggest treatment or lifestyle changes. Free products may be available from the NHS, such as washable absorbent bed pads and incontinence pads.
Contact the Bladder and Bowel Community for information and advice.
Someone living with dementia may pace around or try to leave a room or their house. They may be searching for something or trying to keep up with an old routine. They may also be bored or restless. Going for regular accompanied walks or taking exercise can help.
Walking for Health offers weekly walks suitable for all people regardless of ability or health condition. In some areas they provide walks specifically for people with dementia.
Some people living with dementia may show aggressive behaviour, either verbal or physical. It can be a symptom of the disease and may be a reaction to something they’re frightened about or they may be anxious or bored.
A psychiatrist or community psychiatric nurse (CPN) may be able to advise and help you manage out-of-character behaviour such as aggression or agitation. You can also get more advice from Dementia UK.
Finding suitable accommodation
Many people with dementia can live at home for a long time but there may come a time when they need to move into specialist accommodation. Options include:
If the person you’re caring for may need a different type of accommodation, contact the local council to request a free care needs assessment.
The person you’re caring for could set up a lasting power of attorney (LPA) while they still have mental capacity. This will allow them to appoint someone they trust to make decisions with or for them about their finances and care. They can also make advance decisions and statements to specify how they would like to be cared for if the time comes when they cannot make their wishes known.
If they lose mental capacity and they haven’t set up an LPA, you can apply to the Court of Protection to be appointed their deputy. This can be a lengthy process so it’s better to set up an LPA while they still can. To find out more go to gov.uk/become-deputy.
Dementia and the Mental Health Act
Occasionally a person living with dementia behaves in a way that puts themselves or others at risk and they may need to be hospitalised. This can be voluntary or they may be detained under a section of the Mental Health Act, sometimes known as ‘being sectioned’.
See the Alzheimer's Society's factsheet, 'The Mental Health Act 1983 and Guardianship' for more information.
If you think the person you’re caring for needs to be detained in hospital in order to receive care or treatment, contact the local mental health team, your GP or the emergency services if the situation is urgent.
The Alzheimer’s Society has advice and lots of useful resources for carers of people living with dementia at alzheimers.org.uk. Their local dementia advisers can also offer practical and emotional support and they have an online directory of services.
Dementia UK offers support to people living with dementia and their families through their Admiral Nurse service. Go to dementiauk.org for more information.
For general support and advice for carers, contact Carers UK carersuk.org
You can find contact details for your local council on gov.uk/find-your-local-council